Nikolay Leontiev

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Leontiev in Ethiopia

Nikolay Stepanovich Leontiev, Count of Abai, (Russian: Никола́й Степа́нович Леонтьев; 26 October 1862 – 1910) was a Russian military officer and adviser, geographer and traveler, explorer of Africa, writer, first Count of the Ethiopian Empire, and veteran of the First Italo-Ethiopian War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Russo-Japanese War.


Leontiev was born on 25 February 1862 to a noble family in Kherson Province. He studied in Nikolaev's Cavalry military school, then served in the Uhlan Leib Guard regiment. In 1891, he became esaul of a military reserve force of the Umansk regiment of the Kuban Cossack army.[1][2]

Like Mashkov and Ashinov before him, Leontiev had dreamed of going to Ethiopia and for many years he collected information about the country. Finally, Leontiev was able to go to Ethiopia on a research trip. Famous scientists, the Science Academy and the Russian Geographical Society took great interest in this programme. But the main task of the Leontiev expedition was to establish friendly relations between Russia and Ethiopia.[3][4]

Leontiev was the chief of the eleven-man Russian expedition;stabskapitan Zviagin was his deputy. The meeting between Leontiev and the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II set up the foundation for their mutual friendship. When Leontiev decided to go home, Menelik sent his first diplomatic mission to Russia with him, and in doing so abrogated an agreement with Italy that forbade such diplomatic missions.[5][6]

First Italo-Ethiopian War[edit]

Count Abai of the Ethiopian empire

Menelik invited Leontiev to return to Ethiopia with a Russian military mission. In 1895 Leontiev organized a delivery of Russian weapons for Ethiopia: 30,000 rifles, 5,000,000 cartridges, 5000 sabres, and a few cannons. The presence of the Russian advisers at the battle of Adwa helped the Ethiopians achieve victory in the first Italo-Ethiopian War.[7][8] The Russian advisor Leonid Artamonov wrote that the Ethiopian artillery comprised 42 Russian mountain guns supported by a team of fifteen advisers.

How writes in the book of Alexander Bulatovich during him courier's marathon for arrival to Ethiopia so phenomenal showy by reason of record speed with the use of camel, Leontiev meets him to give help.[9][10][11]

Leontiev returned to St. Petersburg, and then visited Italy and Turkey. In summer 1897, Count Abai was appointed governor-general of the Ethiopian equatorial provinces.

In accordance with the order of emperor of Ethiopia, Directly Nikolay Leontiev organized one of military expeditions of the Ethiopian army to the region of Lake Rudolf. The Russian officers-volunteers participated in this expedition: Shedevr, Babichev, Agapov, Adzeiv, Petrov et cetera. A brigade had more 2000 Ethiopian soldiers, but cossacks there were most exotic of all. A brigade lost 216 persons as killed or injured, Shedevr was injured and the cossack Gogasov perished. Count Abai was able solemnly report to the emperor Menelik II, how the young romantic poruchik Shedevr solemnly heaved up the flag of Ethiopia above one of banks of Lake Rudolf.[12][13]

Emperor of Ethiopia introduced the title of count, which had never existed in his country before, Nicholai Leontyev was handed an official document that declared him to be Count Abai.

Leontiev organized the first modern battalion of the regular Ethiopian army and presented it to Menelik in February 1899. Leontiev formed the first regular battalion, the kernel of which became the company of volunteers from the former Senegal shooters (disappointed or unreliable for colonial authorities), which he chose and invited from Western Africa, with training of the Russian and French officers. The first Ethiopian military orchestra was organized at the same time.[14][15] Leontiev was in Peking with the Russian contingent in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. A wound forced Leontiev to leave Ethiopia. Later, he took part in the Russo-Japanese War.

Leontiev died in Paris in 1910, but his body is buried in Saint Petersburg.


See also[edit]

Russian people in Ethiopia


  1. ^ *Who Was Count Abai?
  2. ^ The activities of the officer the Kuban Cossack army N.S. Leontjev in the Italian-Ethiopic war in 1895-1896.
  3. ^ Who Was Count Abai?
  4. ^ The activities of the officer the Kuban Cossack army N.S. Leontjev in the Italian-Ethiopic war in 1895-1896.
  5. ^ Who Was Count Abai?
  6. ^ Nikolay Stepanovich Leontiev
  7. ^ Count Leontiev is spy or adventurer...
  8. ^ Nikolay Stepanovich Leontiev
  9. ^ A. K. Bulatovich Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes: Country in Transition, 1896-1898, translated by Richard Seltzer, 2000, ISBN 1-56902-117-1]
  10. ^ With the Armies of Menelik II, emperor of Ethiopia at www.samizdat.comA.K. Bulatovich With the Armies of Menelik II translated by Richard Seltzer]
  11. ^ Ethiopia -- Entotto to the River Baro at A.K. Bulatovich From Entotto to the River Baro translated by Richard Seltzer]
  12. ^ Count Leontiev is spy or adventurer...
  13. ^ Nikolay Stepanovich Leontiev
  14. ^ Count Leontiev is spy or adventurer...
  15. ^ Nikolay Stepanovich Leontiev


Further reading[edit]

  • Елец Ю. Император Менелик и война его с Италией (по документам и походным дневникам Н. С. Леонтьева) СПб., 1898. С. 302.